In Praise of Short Menus

Mike Tomasky, just back from France, offers a list of complaints against the Paris restaurant scene. I can’t really comment on most of it since I haven’t been there in eight years, but his complaint against short French menus I just flat-out disagree with:

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First, the menus are really limited. There’s a steak, a piece of veal, a chicken, maybe a cut of lamb. Two fishes. That’s it. I’m aware that this is the tradition. But some traditions are bad. It’s not too much to ask that there be several choices on a menu.

I don’t really think tradition is the issue here. A brief menu is a good idea. As a diner, there’s nothing I like less than walking into an unfamiliar restaurant only to be confronted with a giant array of choices. I’ve never eaten here before, how on earth should I know what it’d be good to order? It’s much better to see a chef prepare a relatively small number of dishes that he really stands behind. Tons of choice, to me, indicates that you’re preparing food with a client-base in mind that doesn’t really care about food and would rather eat “what they want to eat” rather than something good. I want something good! And I want a staff that’s cooking for people who want something good.